Late for Work 5/11: Did Browns Draft Player Specifically to Neutralize Lamar Jackson?

051121-LFW
Left: QB Lamar Jackson; Right: Browns LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

Did Browns Draft Player in Second Round Specifically to Neutralize Lamar Jackson?

Did the Cleveland Browns trade up in the second round specifically to draft a player they believe can neutralize Lamar Jackson?

NFL Network's Steve Wyche thinks that's exactly what the Browns did when they traded up seven spots to land Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 52nd-overall pick.

"I remember when the Carolina Panthers drafted Thomas Davis [in the first round in 2005] to spy Michael Vick. That was the sole purpose of them drafting him," Wyche said. "Well, who has been the nuisance of the Cleveland Browns? It has been Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens.

"Now they've got a quasi-linebacker/safety who can handle Lamar Jackson on the run, you can spy him in the pass, you can set your defense a different way. I love the strategic thinking when you draft a player like that to complement a lot of other talent on the defense."

Wyche is not alone in his thinking. Browns fans reportedly are referring to Owusu-Koramoah as their "Lamar stopper," and Browns radio play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan said that having Jackson on their schedule twice a season influenced the decision to draft Owusu-Koramoah.

"I think there's a problem the Browns have when they play Lamar Jackson. They just cannot corner him, they can't get him down, they can't pen him in. And I think a guy like this, so athletic, he's going to be able to help in that regard," Donovan said. "At linebacker, you really have to be able to survive within your own division and defend against teams you're going to have to play against twice a year, and I think this kid is just going to be a great player for them in that situation and whoever they play."

Owusu-Koramoah was considered a first-round talent, but he fell into the second round because he was diagnosed with a heart issue that concerned other would-be suitors, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Neutralizing a player as special as Jackson is easier said than done, of course. There's no denying Jackson has been the Browns' nemesis. In five career games against Cleveland, Jackson is 4-1, has averaged 86 rushing yards, run for four touchdowns and thrown 10 touchdown passes to two interceptions.

More Praise for First-Round Picks Rashod Bateman, Odafe Oweh

We're almost two weeks removed from the start of the NFL Draft, but praise for the Ravens' first-round picks, wide receiver Rashod Bateman and edge rusher Odafe Oweh, continues.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert chose Baltimore's selection of Bateman at No. 27 overall as his favorite pick of the draft.

"It's difficult to imagine Bateman producing massive numbers in the Ravens' run-based scheme. But he's going to give quarterback Lamar Jackson exactly what he needs and really hasn't had since he ascended to the starting role in 2018: a polished, well-rounded route-runner who can get off the line of scrimmage and catch anything in his radius," Seifert wrote.

ESPN's Matt Bowen listed Oweh, the 31st-overall selection, as one of 10 rookies who landed with the perfect team.

"Oweh didn't record a sack last season, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 6-foot-5, 257-pound outside linebacker leads all rookies in pass-rush production given his explosive traits and the versatile fronts we see in Baltimore," Bowen wrote. "This is a great fit for Oweh, who can be schemed as a rusher to use his high-end bend in a pro defense.

"Create the one-on-ones here, use twists/loops to get him open rush lanes and set-up Oweh in the Ravens' pressure packages. Last season, Baltimore had a blitz rate of 40.3%, the second highest in the league behind Pittsburgh. This is where Oweh can be deployed from various alignments on the defensive front. With Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue both leaving the Ravens in free agency, there are plenty of pass-rushing snaps to fill."

Marlon Humphrey Makes NFL's All-Paid Team

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was the lone Raven on NFL.com's All-Paid Team, a collection of the highest-paid players in the league at each position.

Humphrey signed a five-year contract extension last year reportedly worth $97.5 million ($19.5 million average per year), making him the second-highest-paid defensive back in the league, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams' Jalen Ramsey.

Few would argue that Humphrey, 24, isn't worth the investment.

"As the second-most-targeted defender in 2020 (103 targets in coverage, per Pro Football Focus), Humphrey worked for his bag last season," NFL.com's Anthony Holzman-Escareno wrote. "Another physical, man-coverage corner always looking to make a play, Humphry led the NFL with eight forced fumbles in 2020. He was the first defensive back to lead the NFL in the category since Charles 'Peanut' Tillman (creator of the 'Peanut Punch') had 10 in 2012."

On a side note, former Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley of the New York Jets also made the All-Paid Team. Mosley signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $85 million in 2019, but he has played in just two games in two seasons. Mosley missed 14 games in 2019 due to a groin injury and opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic.

Ravens Offense Is No. 5 in Post-Draft Power Rankings

The Ravens dropped to seventh in points scored last year after leading the league in scoring in 2019, but Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox believes Baltimore will have a top-five offense again in 2021.

In Knox's post-draft offensive power rankings, he has the Ravens at No. 5, trailing only the teams that made the conference championship games last season (Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

"With Jackson capable of racking up 1,000 yards on the ground, Baltimore's rushing attack should be just as dangerous as it was in 2020," Knox wrote. "With Bateman, [Tylan] Wallace and [Sammy] Watkins in the fold, its passing game should pose more of a consistent threat."

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